Sunday, December 22, 2013

Best Mom Tip #186: Beeeeeee......Patient

Be patient. NOW! NOW! DO IT NOW!

Hee hee. Just kidding.

Patience may be a virtue, but it is not one that comes easily to most of us. Anyone who has ever watched a preschooler insist upon putting on their own shoes while the minutes ticked by and you crept ever closer to that point where you would be so late people would comment on how they "didn't know if you were still coming" knows the pain of patience. 

Or if you've ever changed a diaper and dressed a bunch of kids only to go to load them all in the car and discover that, somehow, the baby needs changing AGAIN. Or if you've sat in a doctor's office waiting room trying to keep the baby from licking the floor while you waited for the strep test you already KNOW is positive. 

Or, sometimes, when you're asked yet another question about the color of the sky, or how power lines work, or about the criminal justice system. OK, that one may just be me since my son is very interested in police work and what happens to bad guys. Today he asked if there were beds in jail and when I said yes he wanted to know why the bad guys didn't just sleep on the floor as punishment. Trying to explain to a Kindergartner that people go to jail as punishment and not for punishment is more challenging than I would have thought.

Most of us don't want to squish our kids' inquisitive minds or stomp on their independence when they learn new tasks. And the doctor's office isn't trying to make my life difficult by actually determining what diseases my kids have. I know all this in my mind, but what about in the actual life moments? The moments when we HAVE to leave the house RIGHT NOW or we have to wait because your brother needs antibiotics or I cannot hold you because everyone else has to eat and CAN'T YOU SEE I HAVE SOMETHING HOT IN MY HANDS?

How can we be patient in those times when it is the last thing in the world we want to be? 

I volunteer with the high school ministry at our church and I joke that working with teenagers is a long game. You never know what moments may matter to them or what words might seep into their hearts and resonate later on in their lives. That was true when I taught high school as well. You hope that they feel loved and valued and that maybe they learn something that will make them better adults and better citizens and better human beings in general. Sometimes they look you up to tell you thanks or that you made a difference, but mostly you just scatter your seeds and hope something grows at some point. 

Parenting is an even longer game. A lifetime, at least, but perhaps even longer. What I teach my children about love, respect, discipline, encouragement, commitment, and faith will echo through the generations that come after me. My daughter will emulate me in ways that neither she nor I can foresee. My sons will respect in their wives some of the same qualities they respect in me. I have no other tasks in this life that compare to the joyful burden of raising my children.

So why in the world am I so annoyed at them for being slow or grumpy or intentionally deaf to my instructions?

In church this morning our preacher talked about how, nearly 2000 years before Jesus was born, God promised Abraham that "all peoples on earth" would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3). Today, Jews, Christians, and Muslims all trace their heritage back to Abraham. People groups that don't follow those faiths come into contact with those who do. God still moves through wheels he set turning millennia ago. God's plan, His master plan to bring joy, hope, and light to the weary world, has been thousands of years in the making. Even when mankind does his very utmost to screw up the whole thing and blame it on God in the process, God's purpose and plan moves forward.

THAT is patience.

It occurred to me that if I could gain even a tiny fraction of God's perspective on others, my patience might expand exponentially. In that light, I have noticed a few things about my interactions with my children.

1. My children are NOT trying to push my buttons. Usually. Sometimes they are, but mostly they are just learning to navigate this world.
2. My ability to be on time, have everyone dressed well, or make dinner will not be the most important thing(s) they remember about me. My attitudes toward them will always have more value and more impact.
3. My children have very little control over their own lives and sometimes they are trying to claim independence in some small, seemingly insignificant way that matters deeply to them in that moment. 

Practically, this attempt at patience manifests itself in a few ways. I try to create "work-arounds" for their known triggers. The kid who MUST put on his own shoes or he will melt down is told to do so 15 minutes early, for instance. When I have no control over how long something is going to take (prescriptions, traffic, etc.) I take a deep breath and let it go. My poor attitude will not make us move faster. Children who refuse to listen are occasionally picked up and moved against their will, but without the arguing or threats or stress build-up beforehand. 

I try to focus on the long game, not just this task or this day. Sometimes I fail. 

Alright, relatively often I fail. And that's when I pray. For patience, for perspective, and most of all, for the long game. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Best Mom Tip #185: Look Down

After having written a somewhat downer of a Christmas post last week, I thought I'd make up for it with cute pictures of my toddler. SO...This is Baby Jack.

He is cute and cuddly and he really likes to help do things like put on his shoes and socks and decorate the Christmas tree. He is terrible at all of these things.
He also likes to throw the Christmas ornaments, eat the tinsel off of the tree, and steal things and hide them in the cabinet of toys for later. He is significantly better at these tasks.

For the most part, he makes my life a lot more difficult. He screams when I buckle him into the car seat, he tried to steal a stranger's snack at church this morning, and he flings himself on the ground when he doesn't get his way (say, when I remove a stranger's snack from his grubby fingers). But he also forces me to look at the world with different, and far more passionate, eyes.

If your Christmas holidays are anything like mine, they involve a ridiculous amount of shuffling and logistics and can seem kind of overwhelming. Figuring out what I'm supposed to send in for class parties, which room parent is supposed to get the money for the teacher gift, and which kid is going to which party feels like one of those logic problems I used to do in school.

You know, like, five girls are named Becky, Kaitlyn, Dylan, Brittany, and Heather. Their favorite colors are red, blue, pink, purple, and green. They each play one instrument, the violin, cello, harmonica, piano, and tuba. Becky hates pink and plays the tuba. No girl plays a stringed instrument and likes a traditionally feminine color. What day does Kaitlyn go to the orthodontist? Or something like that.

Having little people who are thrilled with it all, however, has made me try to slow down and really enjoy the chaos and clutter. On Thanksgiving we went to a local tree lighting and our 5-year-old said, "Mommy, Thanksgiving had a little visitor and it was Christmas!"

How cute is that? So I've been trying to welcome our little visitor of lights and cookie exchanges and gingerbread parties and sing-alongs and handmade ornaments and gift buying/wrapping/re-wrapping (Harry crushed three of them while climbing behind the Christmas tree to steal his brother's ornament) without getting frustrated. It doesn't always work.

Which brings me back to Jack. On top of the kitchen table.

This is my precious 1-year-old climbing up on our table in order to play with the Fisher Price Little People Nativity set. He picks up the donkey and barks. He picks up the camel and growls. He is also not very good at identifying animal sounds. He has monkey, though, so that should come in handy here in Atlanta.

The third time I found Jack on top of the table stealing wise men and risking the health of his already bonk-prone skull, I had an epiphany.

"Why in the world don't I move this thing to somewhere lower?"

I've started to try to look at our wonderfully tacky Christmas decorations with my children's eyes, from a point about two feet off the ground. After seeing our house decorated for the first time this year our teenage baby-sitter said, "I like it. It's whimsical and magical. I bet the kids love it." And she's right. They do love it.

They love seeing everyone they know (except Aunt Julie and family--Hi, Aunt Julie!) throughout the month.
They love that I bake things (really, the only time of the year I do that).
They love class parties.
They love giving their teachers gifts (even though I know from my own teaching experience that cash would be better.)
They love to decorate the front porch.
They love to sing Christmas carols.
They love to celebrate.

So keeping in mind my little ones and their enjoyment of the holidays (and also Jack's health) I moved the nativity.

Underneath the hideous reindeer candy dish, underneath the garishly colored ornaments, right where it can be reached by little fingers. There is a wise man missing. There is a race car, and sometimes a dinosaur, present. The camel can often be found lying pitifully on its side in the middle of the hallway.

Isn't it beautiful?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Best Mom Tip #184: Kill Santa

I'm kidding, I don't really think you have to kill Santa-- I just thought it was a funny title. I have an old post called "naked laundry" and you would not believe how many hits that thing still gets. I like to imagine how disappointed some guy is that it's actually just about a frazzled mom and does not include pictures. Or maybe he's grateful it doesn't include pictures.

Anyway, I did really want to talk about Christmas and some things I've been thinking about around our house lately. This Christmas will be the 10th one that Jay and I have celebrated as parents. Over the years we have settled into some traditions and ideas that I'm really happy with and others that are still not exactly what I had in mind.

Early on we decided that, as Christians, it was our responsibility to be intentional with what we teach our children during this time of the year. Our first decision to that end was that we would not be using Santa in our holiday celebrations. Not because Santa is evil or because we hate the joy of children or because we like to flaunt our super-spirituality in front of our friends and family, but because we felt that Santa overshadowed one of our easiest opportunities to teach our children about God's love.

Every year we make a point of telling them that God loved us so much that he gave us all the precious gift of His son. Jesus came "to seek and to save the lost"--to point an arrow back toward God so that we would always know exactly how to find Him. To celebrate being on the receiving end of such a gift, we choose to give gifts to the people we love and cherish every day. Santa, while fun and jolly, made that message harder to explain to kids already distracted by new stuff. So we just don't use ole St. Nick and that has worked pretty well in our family.

Eventually, we focused in on a sort-of two pronged approach to celebrating Christmas with our kids. We attempt to limit their materialism in order to encourage them to become generous givers and we also try to give them opportunities to do for others outside our family as much as possible.

Limiting materialism is quite an uphill challenge. Being Santa-free helps because we don't have to make up excuses for why he doesn't bring super awesome stuff, but there is still a temptation to give over-the-top presents just to see their faces light up. But we didn't want to experience a Christmas morning that was just a gluttony of gifts with no meaning and so we have spent years attempting to counteract the greedy advertising fliers and crazy store displays that our kids see almost every day during late November and December.

A few years ago my friend Camilyn mentioned that her kids get three presents because that was how many Jesus got from the Wise Men. I thought that was both hilarious and practical so Jay and I have implemented this rule in our house, too. Each kid gets one "big" gift and two smaller ones on Christmas morning. Honestly, with four kids it also makes it easier to be relatively equitable.  We still can't control gifts given by others, especially grandparents who have their own need to give equitably among grandchildren, but it's a start.

I also have the children help pick out the gifts we give to their cousins and grandparents. I want them to understand that we choose gifts others will like and spend our money on those we love in order to serve them, not because they will give us presents in return. I hope some of that idea sinks in.

Doing for others is pretty simple while our children are so young. We participate in the Operation Christmas Child program every year and our kids carefully pick out the gifts to go into the box for a kid their age in a developing nation. They pick out toothbrushes and balls and, with our boys, there is always a dinosaur I have to cram into that little box. It's a family outing that they really enjoy and look forward to every year-even my 3-year-old who doesn't like to share anything. I hope to add other service traditions as they get older, but we will have to see where their hearts and interests lie.

By no means do we experience a Christmas completely free of our cultural influences, and I don't think that we need to try to do so. Even our date for celebrating Christmas is likely based on tradition rather than fact so deciding that there is only one right way is a little arbitrary (and silly). We have a Christmas tree even though I know that it has far more to do with the desire of European pagans to remember that spring would come again than it does Christ. Our children's gifts are hidden until we reveal them on Christmas morning purely for the element of surprise. We hang stockings and fill them on Christmas Eve for no other reason than that it's fun. We even make cookies, but instead of leaving them out for Santa Claus, we take them to the police and fire stations near our house on Christmas Eve.

My point is not that you should kill Santa, but rather that we should all really look at our traditions and actions during this month and make sure that they are teaching our children the message we want them to hear. December, more than any other month, gives us great opportunities as parents to share our values and belief systems and have those lessons stick.

Most importantly, we should continue to pray for guidance about what we do and say around these little ears concerning Christmas.

As parents, we actually already have their undivided attention about this holiday. They know that there will be lights and cookies and TOYS from every adult they know. They are eager to talk about Christmas and what they remember from last year and what they hope for in this holiday to come.

Our children will remember our traditions from year to year and hold them sacred in their hearts well into adulthood because they are (hopefully) accompanied by good memories of excitement and fun. Let's attempt to instill meaningful traditions that shape our children into caring adults who value their fellow man and seek to do good in the name of God.  I think it will make for a merrier Christmas for us all. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Best Mom Tip #183: Embrace this moment

Hey, look, I have a blog! I clearly have not written in a while, largely due to lots of children, a messy house, and nothing terribly funny to say. And, honestly, today is no different. What I have to say today isn't particularly entertaining, but it is personal and relevant to me and I thought it might be to someone else as well.

I had a revelation the other day about myself and my own insecurities as a woman, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a mother.

I realized that my feelings of inadequacy and personal failure are an insult to the blessings and gifts of this moment in my life. My comparisons to other (and in my mind, more successful) women belittle the joy and peace that I experience daily. My dissatisfaction and need to justify my life choices to an unnamed, unidentified outside audience are an insult to the principles that guided my decisions in the first place.

It was quite the thought process for a Friday morning.

See, I was a teacher and I loved my job. Through a series of furloughs, changes to family childcare leave policy, and frozen salaries my school district made it difficult for me to retain my job and have another baby (which was unfortunate because 4 years ago I was pregnant with two preschoolers and had to make some tough decisions.)

It is hard to explain to people who have never felt as I did, but I really wanted another child-I didn't feel like our family was complete and I love the chaos of children. I don't actually like babies, which tends to surprise people, but I do love kids. I felt like there was a hole in our family and so Jay and I decided to have our third child.

But then I had to decide what to do with my career. As I said, I loved my job. I was good at it. It gave me great stories at parties. It was fulfilling and entertaining. I felt useful and productive and of value. It certainly wasn't all fun, but it was interesting. But that year the kids and I got the swine flu and it was scary and stressful getting coverage for my classes and making lesson plans for substitutes while taking a toddler to get chest x-rays and standing outside the room while he screamed because I was pregnant and couldn't be near the radiation. I worried about those kinds of moments if I added yet another kid.

For months I struggled with what I should do about my career. Our district had eliminated part time positions so my choices were pretty straightforward-full time work or no work. They both scared me. I was worried about parenting three kids effectively. I was worried about my students suffering if I returned to work after the summer with 3 kids, one of whom was 6 weeks old. I was worried about being a good wife and friend and daughter and sister if I had all of these other responsibilities pulling at me.

So I prayed. To those of you who don't share my faith, that may sound silly or even pointless. For those of you who do, you probably wonder why I didn't start praying months earlier. I don't know why it took me a while to remember to ask God for direction, but it probably had to do with all the conflicting thoughts swirling around in my head as I tried to keep my plates spinning in my daily life. What I began to hear, after many nights asking for direction, was God calling me to stay home with my children for a while.

I hesitate to share that last sentiment because it is such a loaded topic. In no way do I think that God wants all moms of small children to quit their jobs. Nor do I think every family needs a person in the home at all times. What I do think is that God had things to teach me that I was unable to hear when my head was full of Comparative Essays, valuable multiple choice responses, and AP Exam dates.

I had put too much of my worth into what I did for a living. I valued too much the praise and encouragement I received as a teacher. I, for the first time in my life, was left alone with my thoughts with no way to escape hard questions about my purpose, my impact on the world around me, and my meaning in this life.

Over the last three and a half years I have learned to be far more patient with my children than I ever thought I could be. I have had to constantly reevaluate my priorities and, honestly, I have spent a lot of time failing at being a stay-at-home mom. That failure has taught me a lot about myself.

I have struggled with a sense of inadequacy. What are my college degrees for if all I do is change diapers?

I have struggled with how I am viewed by the world. Just because I have 4 kids and stay home does not mean I am uncertain about how birth control works, but thank you for asking.

I have struggled with my sense of self and appearance. It is hard to feel beautiful when you wear primarily work out clothes day in and day out. Unless you're a really hot fitness instructor, I guess, but I'm not so that doesn't really apply.

I have struggled with a sense of insignificance. Where is my big mark on the world if I only see 5 other people a day?

And now on to the revelation part.

If God Almighty called me to this moment in my life, it is disobedient and disrespectful to believe it is "less than" simply because my culture tells me I should be great at all things to all people at all times. 

I will not be winning any awards any time soon, but I have grown as a person and shepherded 4 little lives into being with more peace than I could have used while I taught. And I have spent hours on the phone with my sister-in-law while her husband was deployed overseas talking about kids and parents and clothing-options-after-babies that I would never have experienced if I had been in the classroom all day. I have had conversations with my mom that I would not have had without the time to wander toward meaningful discussion during a phone call. I have distracted my friend Cheryl from working in the middle of the day and kept up with the details of a friend I might not have if we were both working and raising babies at the same time. OK, I spend a lot of time on the phone, apparently, probably because I am starved for adult conversation.

The point is, I am at peace with my choices. I don't know what happens next. Do I return to the classroom as my children are getting a little older? Do I return to school and create a different career path for myself? Do I stay in this pattern for a few more years? I truly don't know the answer right now. But I pray that I will remember that if I follow what God would have me do, I need not worry about my purpose.

I will be living it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Best Mom Tip #182: Lavish them with love

I am fortunate to be the daughter of two very loving people.  My mom and dad told us we were loved every single day and every time we left the house.  My brother and I were (and are) adored by our parents who always made sure that we knew how proud they were of us.  So this one is relatively easy for me and a lesson I began to learn from birth.  Even in our times of major illnesses and stress growing up, I never doubted that my parents loved me or each other. That knowledge was an anchor in the storm for me and it is one that I want to give to my children.

The other night, our 4-year-old son came into our bedroom around midnight.  He stumbled in with bleary eyes and said he needed "to snuggle."  Generally, when he wakes up in the middle of the night it really means that he needs to use the bathroom, not snuggle, so after a trip to take care of business we let him climb into our big bed and snuggle in between us.

Jay and I smoothed his hair and gave him kisses and told him things we like about him.  "I am so proud of how kind and generous you are to other people.  You always offer to share your toys."  "You are so brave when you try to put your head under the water at the pool." "I am so impressed with how hard you work on learning your words and letters and how to read." "I will love you forever and there is nothing you can ever do that will make me stop loving you."

We went back and forth like that, one comment from me then one from Jay, for about 10 minutes.  With each word of praise his sleepy little face lit up with pride and joy--eyes closed, giant smile, and awesome little boy all over.  We try to be specific in our praise--"I'm proud of your effort at school" instead of "You're so smart"--in order to reinforce characteristics he can control and that we want to encourage rather than just complimenting an inborn gift.  I think it gives our compliments more credence, especially once our children get old enough to realize that we are totally biased in their favor.

I don't even know if he remembered our time together the next morning-I didn't think to ask.  In the night, Jay gave him one last giant hug and then carried him back to his own bed.  But I like to think that the words soaked into his little mind and soul.  He is a lionhearted kid who wanted to fight Osama bin Laden (he overheard me talking to my sister-in-law when bin Laden was killed) and tells me that he can't stay little because he has to grow up to be "a police" so he can protect me.  One day, when he's standing in the gap for me and the rest of the general population, I want him to carry a heart that is confident in his abilities and secure in his values.  Not because he's infallible, but because he is loved and admired by people he respects.

What kid couldn't use more of that?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Best Mom Tip #181: Reminisce for a while

Today is my 15th wedding anniversary. It feels like both a minute and a lifetime since Jay and I said our vows and started our life together. On the anniversary of major events-our wedding, the births of our children-we like to play "what were we doing right now x years ago today"?

Fifteen years ago today I had my hair and makeup done by two different people who were not me.  I carefully took a nap while wearing a veil that I draped over the back of a chair and no one interrupted my sleep.  I wore the most expensive outfit of my life. I had a moment waiting for the ceremony to start when I thought "oh my God, what am I doing?  This is forever!"  And then I remembered that I was marrying Jay and that didn't sound overwhelming or scary at all.  It felt right and it made me smile.

We repeated our vows and when I said, "with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you" I realized that I was committing not just to love and to cherish, but to respect and support and encourage. I was promising to put my husband above all others in my life.  And Jay promised the same to me.

Today was not like that.  I took Baby Jack to the ENT way across town and it took 2 1/2 hours for 15 minutes with health care professionals. I took the kids to Chick-fil-A because we came home from vacation yesterday afternoon and there was nothing to eat in our house.  Also, we hadn't been in over a week and I figured they missed us.  I took four kids to the grocery and bought random things because I didn't have a list.

I took the kids swimming and changed them into their suits and sprayed them with sunscreen and packed snacks.  I was trying to wear them out because they are jet lagged and staying up late giggling, but I overshot and my 2-year-old just fell asleep in the car on the way home and then stayed up until 10.

My "getting ready" involved a shower and scrubbing the chipped polish off of my big toes because it had already come off of all the other toes and looked rather sad.  I did put on some makeup but couldn't find several different items and mostly just gave up and went with the same stuff I wear every other day I have to look like a grown up.  It was not particularly romantic.

But at 5pm, on my way home from swimming, my children all started singing along with the radio.  The oldest two did pretty well, the third one sang the words one line behind the others, and the baby used a sing-song version of his "ahahahahahah" talking sounds. It was loud and off key and made me think of how much better this was than having pictures taken before our wedding.

At dinner tonight the power went out and we ate by candle light and talked about what our 21 and 22-year old selves would think about our lives if we could have foreseen this.  I think we'd be surprised that we have 4 kids and that I stay home with them.  I think we'd be pleased at the trips we've taken and the places we've seen.  I think we'd be grateful and excited that we are so happy and that there is so much love in our house.

My cup runneth over.  Fifteen years ago today was a good day, but it was not as good as today.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Best Mom Tip #180: Run with them

Yesterday I got to realize a parenting daydream 9 years in the making.  In January of 2004 I had just finished coaching a high school cross country team, completed my one and only marathon to date, and began the serious "are we having kids now" discussion with my husband.  By April I knew I was pregnant with my first beautiful baby.

I knew she was a girl.  I would talk to her on runs, which I continued until 1 week before she was born when my doctor told me to stop because I was not helping her rather slow growth rate.  I would tell her that we were strong and healthy and that cool girls run.  I would tell her what made me nervous about becoming a mom (I hope I know how to love you enough) and what worried me about my body (why are you making my knees hurt so much?) and random things I was thinking about (do you think you'd like your walls to be blue like the sky?).

I would dream of having these conversations for real when she was old enough to run with me.  I could picture us taking the laps at our park and heading down the hill back toward our neighborhood.  I imagined a time when running together was like story time or bedtime-just something we did. Together.  I held (and still do hold) the hope that if we run, maybe we'll still have something in common when she's 13 and doesn't like me anymore.

So yesterday, I ran with my girl.  At 8 she is old enough to participate in most 5K events and she was interested in joining me-and getting a medal.  We went to the 5K that accompanies the Georgia Marathon so there was a lot going on and plenty to see.  We went to the race Expo on Saturday.  We rode the train in the dark and walked along the city streets with other runners.  We heard the national anthem together and cheered.  We watched the wheel chair start and talked about how impressive that is.

In the race itself, people told her how well she was doing and how fast she was.  I got to tell her about pacing and form and how to shorten and lengthen her strides with the hills.  And we chatted and passed people and jogged, very slowly, the entire 3.1 miles.  She's a rock star.  And my heart is full of my daydream come true.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Best Mom Tip #179: Steal their toys at night

I spend a ridiculous amount of my time cleaning up after other people.  There are diapers and dishes and clothes and toys and school papers and hair elastics and legos and shoes and tiny pieces of paper and crumbs and goo and hand prints and beloved stuffed animals and crayons and books and flash cards and pencils and more goo.   I don't really want to know what the goo is.

I have mentioned that I have felt like I'm drowning in all of the chaos and mess and sense of never being finished.  So I decided to do something, ANYTHING, differently to see if I could change that feeling a bit. I channeled a little bit of John Rosemond and a little bit of my former teacher self and I came up with this idea:
At the end of every day, once the children are in bed, I steal anything left on the floor or out of place.

It all disappears never to be seen again.  So far, it is working like a charm.  My house has been clutter free for a week--so, not a long term experiment, but still a less cluttered week than the other 100 before it.

In reality, the stuff goes into a bin in the back of my closet that is easy for me to access, but not obvious to the kids.  I'm not sure how long I'll keep the stuff in there.  My current options are 1) forever or until my next Goodwill run; 2) until they ask for a particular item and then another week after that; and 3) I'll clean it out once a month and sort the items into Goodwill, keep, or garbage. I'm still working out the kinks and I'll let you know if I come up with anything more concrete.

But here's what's been so great.  The older two kids are actually afraid that something they really love will disappear because they see that things are actually being cleaned up.  So they clean like madmen and make up for their younger siblings.  When the younger ones (really just my obstinate 2-year-old) refuse to help, I just take those toys and now have less to clean in the future.

Before I started the new plan I cleaned out all of the toys in our playroom, set up new storage cubes that are easy for the kids to use, and explained the new system to them all.  Every night I give them fair warning to check the house and I guide them to toys they may have overlooked (but there aren't very many because of their fear of disappearing toys).

The result?  I don't have to pick up before I clean up anymore.  Now if I can just find the source of that goo...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Best Mom Tip #178: Choose your soundtrack

So today is Valentine's Day.  Quick, you have a few more hours before it is painfully clear that you've forgotten to acknowledge your significant other.  Anyway, Valentine's Day makes me think of romantic comedies and that makes me think of movies and that makes me think about how much more fun my life would be if there were an appropriate soundtrack.

During my boot camp class this morning there were a LOT of stair repeats and we tried hum-singing the "getting stronger" song from Rocky but it really isn't the same with a bunch of out of breath women instead of Sly Stallone.  But I did raise my arms and shadow box a little just in case I did look cool doing it.  Even though I know that I didn't.

I once heard a speaker say that you should choose 5 songs that represent the soundtrack of your life.  I have no idea in what context or why he said that because, clearly, I spent the rest of the time choosing my songs.  I thought I'd share my soundtrack and challenge you to choose your own.

1.  Jesus Loves Me.  I know it's simplistic.   I know large sections of the world don't believe in my faith.  But it reminds me of my childhood and kind little old ladies at church and when all songs in my life had hand motions.  It makes me feel secure and loved and is the core of what I believe in.

2.  Amazing Grace.  OK, I know that it's a little lame to have back-to-back church songs because that would never happen in a movie, but here's why I chose this one.  It was played at my grandmother's funeral and it made my dad really sad.  My grandmother, once a dedicated pianist and teacher, had Parkinson's disease and toward the end of her life she didn't recognize us at all.  At my grandfather's grave site she had to ask if someone had died--it was a bit painful to have to explain that yes, it was her husband of more than 60 years who was gone.  So why doesn't it make me sad like it did my father?  The last verse starts, "when we've been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun"-and that's how I like to remember my family members who have gone before me--bright shining as the sun.  What a glorious view of death.

3. Georgia On My Mind.  I am Georgian.  Like since the Revolutionary War kind of Georgian.  I'm pretty sure my ancestors were horse thieves or something back in the old country, but whatever their reasons for leaving they thought, "I can do better than this"  and so they risked their lives and headed to the unknown of America.  And they wound up in Georgia.  Cotton farmers, tobacco farmers, a relative who served for both the Union and the Confederacy, and a whole lot of teachers.  I can relate to the "moonlight through the pines."  Also, every state wishes that their state song had as much soul and talent as Ray Charles.

4.  Brown Eyed Girl.  Ignoring that this is clearly a romantic song, my mom used to sing it to me when I was little.  It makes me want to dance and sing "sha la la la la la la la la la la tee da."  And I am a brown-eyed girl.  With four brown-eyed kids.

5.  This one changes depending on my phase of life.  It has been a variety of U2 songs.  Some Cold Play.  Some Mumford and Sons.  Right now it's "We Are Young" by Fun.  Every night after dinner we have a dance party where we play this song and flail around the living room with our children.  They think the last line is, "so if by the time the ball closes you feel like falling down" (you know, because you're so tired) "I'll carry you home, tonight."  And thus continues the family trend of singing totally inappropriate songs to our kids.

None of these is romantic in the least.  Somehow, that portion of my life has always seemed separate to me. More precious.  More sacred.  I dated people before I dated my husband, but no one ever held my heart like he does.  When I think of our soundtrack, the song that comes to mind is Into the Mystic by Van Morrison.  It's soulful, it's romantic, it speaks of a love that existed before and forever.  The chorus starts with a very hippie "I want to rock your gypsy soul."  And when Jay asked me to marry him, 15 years ago today, I said yes largely because he was the only one who could see my gypsy soul trapped in the body and mind of a responsible first-born kid with sick parents.  He's the only one who, in the midst of a lot of child-rearing, still makes me feel like we're about to flow into the mystic.

So maybe tonight you and your sweetie can share your soundtrack and think about all the reasons you still say yes.  I wish a very happy Valentine's Day to you all.

Hey, look at that, Jay!  I did get you something.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Best Mom Tip #177: Enter the Momlympics

 The Momlympics are just like the Olympics except that instead of elite athletes making you feel inferior because you canNOT run a mile in under 4 minutes, they have moms competing in categories for which only motherhood can prepare you.

Thus far, the Momlympics includes the following events:

Schlepping stuff:  If you have ever used your mouth to carry something like your phone because your hands were filled with a school bag, two sippy cups, a random sock, car keys, your own purse, a water bottle, and a baby, you have been training for this category.  Then you thought, "did I just put my PHONE in my mouth?!! The same phone I set on an elliptical machine at a public gym in case the school calls about one of my kids and that I then let my toddler play with? I am clearly going to die of norovirus."

Clothes Changing:  In a car, in a public restroom stall, in the booth of a restaurant, with a baby that does flips every 2 seconds, with a newborn who cannot control his arms while another child clings to your legs, while you are covered in diet coke AND you're in a rest stop parking lot, when one or more of the participants are covered in vomit, when none of the clean clothes left fit the child who needs new clothes, and when due to unforeseen weather or spontaneous swimming it involves 3+ children and yourself.  This category is going to be pretty competitive this year and is closely related to the next one...

Bodily Function Clean-up:  If you have ever caught spit-up with your hand or been glad that the poop landed on you because at least you don't have to clean the floor, this is your event.  Do you have 14 different boxes of tissues hidden in your home and car?  Do you buy baby wipes to keep in your car even though you no longer have a baby?  Do you know how to get blood out of silk because of that one time you dressed nicely for a date and a kid busted his lip AGAIN while running in socks? It's got to be fast before another kid sees/steps in/tracks through the house whatever it is that needs cleaning up.  And it's gotta involve at least a little bleach.

Finding things:  Where are my shoes? What happened to the 12th rubber disk that my Buzz Lightyear gun shoots?  Where is my blankie?  Where is my paci?  Where is Daddy?  Where did I leave my milk?  Where is my skirt/shirt/pants that I want to wear right now?  Why are these items invisible to everyone in the family except Mommy?  I don't know, but prepare to test your skills while thinking like a kid.

Remembering Things:  Prescriptions dosages, number of kids in their classes, when the doctor appointments are, when the dentist appointments are, which kid has a class party, which kid cannot have anything that has ever looked at a peanut in their lunch, that even though she didn't ask for them your daughter will be disappointed if you don't send in cookies for the class to share on her birthday, and when the baby needs to eat again.  This category will not include remembering your own appointments or birthday because your brain is clearly full of random other crap.

In the interest of full disclosure I am forced to admit that, as of yet, there are no actual Momlympics.  But if there were, I would be a serious contender.  What other events would you like to see?